Game – Fractured Soul
Version – 3DS eShop ($11.99)
Obtained – Review copy from End Game Studios
Reviewer – Steve Cullum
Fractured Soul is the latest game to join the slowly growing “switch-screen platform” genre to hit the Nintendo handheld. Does this sci-fi shooter deserve your digital download space, or should you look elsewhere?
Story & Plot
The story and plot of Fractured Soul is told ever so slightly as you move from one level to the next. In fact, in many ways, it parallels a Metroid style of storytelling. You are told very little, in order to connect with the protagonist. Because of this, we will avoid any spoilers. Instead, we will only tell you that you are in a hostile environment, and you are trying to find your way out.
Each level is rather linear, meaning that you have a start point and an end point. This is where it differs from Metroid, but comes closer to something like Mega Man. In fact, those are the two classic connections I would make for this game. If you were to combine them, and add in switch-screen functionality of a game like Chronos Twins, you would get Fractured Soul. All in all, this is a good thing. The simple, non-intrusive story harkens back to classic games, but it might help to have a bit more of a storyline in the beginning, just to set the mood.
Gameplay & Controls
As mentioned earlier, the game is quite linear. You will start off on one screen. As you move along, you will soon find out you are at a dead-end. However, if you switch your character to the other screen, you can continue moving. Similarly, you may need to switch back and forth to avoid enemies or other elements. Luckily, switching is not your only form of defense. You can also jump, duck, and shoot. The difficulty comes soon after the fourth or fifth level, just as you are getting the hang of things. After that, you better be on your best game, because extremely quick timing is required to progress through each subsequent level. Along the way, your environments will change, and you must adjust. For example, at one point, one dimension (top screen) will have a lower sense of gravity than the other dimension (bottom screen), and you must use that to your advantage.
After you make it through a level, you are graded based on your time and how many secrets you found. In addition, you can see how you match up against your friends’ best times and those from other players around the world. This makes for multiple replays of levels, and is a great feature. Also, the better you do, the more stars you will gain. These are used to unlock bonus levels, which add even more challenge.
As far as controls go, the game is quite simple. There is no touch-screen control, even for the menus. Instead, you control everything with the buttons and Circle-Pad. Jump with B, shoot with Y or A, and switch screens with L or R. This works very well. In order to move your character, you can use the Circle-Pad or control pad. Due to the game’s old-school nature, I found the control pad works better to get exact movement. It also helps when you need pinpoint precision in higher levels of difficulty. The good thing is, that there are checkpoints, although not clearly marked, so you do not have to restart from the beginning each time you die. (By the way, you do have unlimited lives.)
Graphics & Sound
The first thing to realize is that, while this is a 3DS eShop title, it does not utilize 3D graphics. Instead, Fractured Soul is presented in high quality 2D. All the while, it keeps its basis in the classic sci-fi side-scroller look, which is definitely a good thing. The only problems you may run into with graphics are the occasional times you feel as if you are close enough to a platform, but you end up missing it, jumping through it, or not seeing it at all. On one particular level, I completely missed an easier way across a chasm just because the red bars blended in with the background so much.
As stated earlier, Fractured Soul feels like a combination of Metroid and Mega Man. This is not only the case in terms of a storyline or difficulty. It is also present in the feel of the game. Music and sound effects create a lonely environment, where you quickly connect with the character and want to get out of there. Overall, this is a positive critique, but many newer players may not appreciate this use of sound, or the lack thereof. Also, some background songs tend to be repetitive. This is probably a limitation of the platform, but it would have been nice for some more variation for tunes.
SCORE: 4.5 out of 5
While I wanted to give Fractured Soul a score of 1 just because it kicked my butt, I ended up being the bigger man. This combination of Metroid, Mega Man, and Chronos Twins works very well. Fractured Soul is a fantastic title that will challenge your reflexes and keep you coming back for more in an effort to get the fastest time. Download it as soon as it is available on September 13, 2012!